On February 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review and reconsider the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule that expanded federal jurisdiction over pollution in streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
The order is a review, and not a repeal of the rule. On the White House website, under the “America First Energy Plan” webpage, Trump committed “to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.” By issuing the order, the EPA and the Corps are to restart and rewrite the rule to enable more common-sense local implementation. Since the rule was originally proposed, it received a lot of criticism for excluding state and local government concerns. Many states and agricultural interests claimed that the rule caused excessive economic harm and was an executive branch overreach. Newly installed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt promised that the agency would work to reduce the “regulatory burden” on economic interests by the Obama administration.
The National Association of Counties has repeatedly called for collaborative engagement, greater certainty, and a pragmatic rule to advance clean water goals without hindering counties’ vast public safety and infrastructure responsibilities. Counties own and manage public safety infrastructure including 45% of the nation’s road miles and associated ditches, 40% of bridges, as well as flood control channels, drainage conveyances and culverts used to prevent flooding, all impacted by the rule.